A face can solely maintain a lot punching. As such, there’s maybe no sport much less conducive to completely satisfied endings than MMA. The harm inherent to preventing for lengthy sufficient to achieve a fanbase compounds on itself till you get an end result like Jared Cannonier pulverizing Anderson Silva’s leg with a stray kick. This previous weekend’s UFC 279 card was centered across the presumptive execution of Nate Diaz. The 37-year-old from Central Valley was presupposed to be fed to one of the vital dominant up-and-comers within the sport, as a present of power by UFC administration in opposition to labor, to indicate what occurs when you refuse to play ball. As an alternative, by way of luck and talent, Diaz wound up ending his contract on a excessive, leaving the group (for now) with no matter dignity will be afforded to an ageing MMA fighter.
After he misplaced to present welterweight champion Leon Edwards final summer time, Diaz had one battle remaining on his UFC contract. We’re at the moment in one thing of a golden age of fighters creating wealth to battle YouTube freaks, so Diaz understandably needed to complete out his deal and go battle a kind of YouTube freaks for a giant pile of cash. However the UFC needed him to stay round for a trilogy battle in opposition to Conor McGregor, so each honest battle they supplied to him additionally got here with a contract extension connected. The standoff ended when Diaz agreed to be in the primary occasion of UFC 279 in opposition to Khamzat Chimaev, an enormous man youthful than Diaz by a decade.
The pairing was absurd: Chimaev’s preventing type is a scaled-up model of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s, all stress and physicality and grim relentlessness; Diaz’s lanky quantity boxing recreation, in the meantime, is more and more anachronistic in an period the place everybody has good cardio now and the widespread adoption of the calf kick in MMA means most potential opponents could be snug implementing the tactic McGregor used to neutralize him of their rematch six years in the past. Earlier than UFC 279, Chimaev had completed 10 of his 11 wins by the second spherical, solely needing the judges as soon as. Diaz knew precisely how dangerous of a matchup this was for him. “They’re appearing like I referred to as for this battle, which I didn’t name for and don’t need and didn’t need and nonetheless don’t need,” he mentioned in an ESPN interview. He brazenly acknowledged that the purpose of the battle was to engineer a easy win for Chimaev in opposition to a well-known opponent (who couldn’t duck him) earlier than his inevitable title shot, and he got here into battle week ready for his baptism.
Chimaev, however, got here into battle week heavy. He tipped the scales at 7.5 kilos over the welterweight restrict. This pressured the UFC to shuffle the cardboard round 36 hours earlier than it started. Happily for Chimaev, a 180-pound catchweight bout between Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez was already on the books; thankfully for Diaz, Li Jingliang and Tony Ferguson have been scheduled for a 170-pound battle. The dance companions shuffled round, Chimaev submitted Holland within the first spherical, Rodriguez earned a razor-thin determination win over Li, and Diaz received to battle the guy ageing Californian he’d requested. Although Ferguson entered the octagon on a four-fight dropping streak, all of these losses got here in opposition to the very best of the very best, and he was nonetheless the favourite over Diaz.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to say Diaz turned again the clock in opposition to Ferguson. Whereas Diaz plodded and got here into the pocket behind a excessive guard, Ferguson bounced and jolted and took goal at Diaz’s pretty hittable legs. All Ferguson received for his efforts was a shin so gnarled that Twitter’s algorithm put a content material warning over a photograph of it. Diaz took hits, duh, however he solely ever slowed down when he needed to break the fourth wall and stand round for some time, daring Ferguson to push him.
Diaz has made a protracted, profitable profession out of his 1-2, utilizing the jab purely to gauge distance and arrange his energy punch. Ferguson couldn’t pinpoint its timing, and as soon as his good tactical deal with chopping down Diaz’s legs backfired, he didn’t have a robust protection in opposition to Diaz’s accuracy. After three-and-a-half rounds of taking harm from Diaz, Ferguson took Nate down. Inside seconds, Diaz was flexing within the cage as he secured a guillotine choke.
Due to his propensity to simply say no matter involves his thoughts, cast-iron toughness, and anti-hero antagonism of UFC administration, Diaz turned a fan favourite. When he beat McGregor in 2016, he became one thing larger than that. The final era of elite weirdo UFC fighters was eclipsed by a extra professionalized but much less attention-grabbing class, which made his stoner-meathead bravado stand out. The UFC didn’t plan for him to cap off a profession’s price of shit-talking with a big-time win over a former champion, however Diaz’s reward for being prepared to battle Chimaev was the very best ending he may have hoped for. Ferguson virtually appeared to take pleasure in having his ass kicked.
What’s subsequent for Diaz? Now that he’s not underneath the management of the UFC, possibly he’ll tussle with one of many Paul brothers or an unofficially retired NFL participant. After a protracted 20 years of preventing for the UFC and its predecessors, a interval which Diaz ended by outflanking the promotion’s makes an attempt to manage the tail finish of his profession, he ought to money out. There’s nonetheless demand for a 3rd battle in opposition to McGregor. Diaz hinted he’d nonetheless be up for that sooner or later, so long as he doesn’t have to make use of his electronic mail.